Wednesday, 17 January 2018

PAUL HEATLEY - THE BOY (2015)


Synopsis/blurb........

WARNING - CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE, SEXUAL CONTENT, AND SCENES OF VIOLENCE. SHOULD NOT BE READ BY ANYONE.

Trapped on the trailer park where his mother abandoned him to his father's care, Jake learned early that life is not always what you want it to be. He searches for distractions from the mundane - with his skateboard, with his friends, and through the window of a girl from school. 

But one night changes everything, and sets Jake on an irrevocable path towards becoming a man, aided by some familiar faces.

Though a standalone story, The Boy is the third in a very loose trilogy beginning in The Motel Whore and continued in The Vampire, and concludes an interlocked series of tales about a town filled with losers, loners, misfits and outcasts, with a unique coming of age story.

It will crawl inside your skull, it will live beneath your skin. It will stay with you for days.

The first read of the year and a cracking start to 2018.

It's not quite as grim and joyless as the first two in the trilogy. Jake, our protagonist enjoys some friendship, kindness and care during our time spent in his company on a trailer park. He has a couple of skateboarding friend's his own age. He has a father who cares about him, albeit in a somewhat haphazard way - both of them damaged by the walkout of a wife and mother. His father's girlfriend shows an interest to a small degree. There's the kindness and concern shown towards him from a friend of his father's after a misadventure and with the enabling of one rite of passage on the path to manhood.

There's an obvious flip-side. Jake suffers physical injury and pain following a vicious beating after disregarding some sage advice from his father's friend, and his mental anguish reveals itself through the release of his pent-up anger and rage towards his mother and her new life and family with the fancy car and nice home. There's indifference from his father about a long period of absence from their trailer, contrasted with genuine happiness on his return.

We have a boy longing for manhood and struggling to get there in a largely solitary fashion. Poor choices and an uncertain path may lay ahead.

A great character piece. We cross paths with some old friends from Heatley's The Motel Whore and The Vampire. Overall it's fairly dark, gritty and grim, but interspersed with some fleeting moments when for just a while the world doesn't seem such a crappy place. Not an existence I crave for my own self or any of those I care about, or anyone really.

4.5 from 5

Some of Paul Heatley's work was read and enjoyed in 2017 - The Motel Whore, The Vampire and one of my 2017 best books - FatBoy.

His website is here. Catch him on Facebook here and Twitter@PaulHeatley3

Read in January, 2018
Published - 2015
Page count - 85
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle


Q+A with Paul last year - here.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

2 BY STEPH POST





















A couple on the stack this week from Steph Post.
Hands up, I've not yet read any of her work but it looks right up my street.

Some praise below....

"Steph Post's prose is lyrical and evocative. Her depiction of hardscrabble life in rural Florida is so effective, you'll wanna lock the doors and crank up the AC. But where LIGHTWOOD truly excels is in illuminating the ties that bind--and stretching them well beyond their breaking point." --Chris Holm, award-winning author of THE KILLING KIND

"Brilliant...Lightwood solidifies Steph Post as the official voice of working class literature in Florida, akin to what Daniel Woodrell has done for Missouri, or Ron Rash for the Carolinas." --Brian Panowich, bestselling author of Bull Mountain

Anyone whose prose has been compared to Daniel Woodrell certainly merits further investigation, in my opinion.

Post has just seen her second Judah Cannon book - Walk in the Fire published this week by Polis Books. Better pull my finger out and start getting myself caught up then.

Steph's website-cum-blog is here.

She can also be located at the following haunts.....

Twitter@StephPostAuthor

FacebookSteph Post

Goodreads - Steph Post



A Tree Born Crooked (2014)



James Hart, with a tough-as-nails exterior and an aching emptiness inside, does not want to go home. Yet when James receives a postcard from his mother, Birdie Mae, informing him of his father's death, he bites the bullet and returns to the rural and stagnant town of Crystal Springs, Florida, a place where dreams are born to die. James is too late for Orville's funeral, but just in time to become ensnared in the deadly repercussions of his younger brother Rabbit's life of petty crime. When Rabbit is double crossed by his cousin in a robbery-turned-murder, James and a local bartender, the unsettling and alluring Marlena Bell, must come up with a plan to save Rabbit's skin. A whirlwind road trip across the desolate Florida panhandle ensues as James tries to stay one step ahead of the vengeful Alligator Mafia and keep his brother alive. With bullets in the air and the ghosts of heartache, betrayal and unspeakable rage haunting him at every turn, James must decide just how much he is willing to risk to protect his family and find a way home.




Lightwood (2017)

Judah Cannon is the middle son of the notorious Cannon clan led by Sherwood, its unflinching and uncompromising patriarch. When Judah returns to his rural hometown of Silas, Florida after a stint in prison, he is determined to move forward and live it clean with his childhood best friend and newly discovered love, Ramey Barrow. Everything soon spirals out of control, though, when a phone call from Sherwood ensnares Judah and Ramey in a complicated web of thievery, brutality and betrayal.

Pressured by the unrelenting bonds of blood ties, Judah takes part in robbing the Scorpions, a group of small-time, meth-cooking bikers who are flying down the highway with the score of their lives. Unbeknownst to the Cannons, however, half of the stolen cash in the Harley saddlebags belongs to Sister Tulah, a megalomaniacal Pentecostal preacher who encourages her followers to drink poison and relinquish their bank accounts. When Sister Tulah learns of the robbery, she swears to make both the Cannons and the Scorpions pay, thus bringing all parties into mortal conflict rife with deception and unpredictable power shifts. When Judah's younger brother Benji becomes the unwitting victim in the melee, Judah takes it upon himself to exact revenge, no matter the damage inflicted upon himself and those around him. Judah becomes a driven man, blinded by his need for vengeance and questioning everything he thought he believed in. With Ramey at his side, Judah is forced to take on both the Scorpions and Sister Tulah as he struggles to do the right thing in a world full of wrongs.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH TOM PITTS


Tom Pitts author of American Static and more answers a few questions for me......


Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job?

Good Lord, no. I work at a moving company during the day. Not moving stuff though. I’m just the office guy. Finding the time to write is a constant struggle. If I ever get stuck with eight hours a day that I can write, the world better watch out. 

I’ve just recently finished American Static, how long did this one take from the initial idea and conception to the completion of the book? Did the end result match any expectations you may have had at the start of the process?


Match? I’d say it exceeded my expectations. I started with a very rough idea and ran with it. The story went much farther than I ever thought it could. I think it took about a year from the first sentence I laid down.

I believe prior to American Static, you’ve had three previous works released – Piggyback (2012), Hustle (2014) and Knuckleball (2015); do you have a favourite of the four?


Definitely my latest, 101. But of the published works, I guess I’d say Hustle. There’s a visceral quality in that novel people respond to. I’m not sure whether it’s the gay prostitution or the heavy drug use, but folks love that book. 

Is there one in particular you would press into the hands of a new reader?


Probably Hustle, but I’m always partial to the latest and greatest. I think American Static is a better novel than Hustle, and the one I just finished writing, 101, is better than them both. But, hey, I’m partial. 

All four have San Francisco as the backdrop, your hometown? San Franciscan born and bred?


I was actually born in Canada. I moved to San Francisco when I was 17, way back in 1984. So, by California standards, it’s home now.  People always comment on how the city is my canvas, but the truth is, I haven’t really spent any time anywhere else. If I could afford to travel once in a while, it’d probably widen my fictional horizons as well. 

Any plans to spread your writing wings further afield in the future? 


Geographically speaking, my next two novels stretch a little further, but they’re still mired in California. Artistically, yeah, I think I’d like to try something bigger, something greater, but every time I sit down to write, I always seem to revert back to the crime tale. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


There seems to be a bit of a pattern to your output – Piggyback 100-odd pages, Hustle – 320, Knuckleball – 112, American Static – 330 give or take. Is book 5 something concise or are you breaking the Pitts mould? How the current WIP going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

My current WIP is a screenplay, so it’d better be 120 pages or I’m not gonna get paid! But as far as the fiction goes, I have two completed novels ready: Coldwater and 101. Both are full-length. I’m not sure which is going to be released first, but one of ‘em is coming out next fall from Down & Out Books. 101 is a crazy tale about the marijuana industry right on the cusp of legalization and Coldwater is about a young couple in Sacramento who have a crew of squatters living across the street—except they’re not squatters, they’re something much more ominous. Sort of a suburban horror story without any ghosts or monsters.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?            
                                     
For years I kept the same schedule. I worked a terrible graveyard shift. I’d get home at 8am, wake up at 2pm, then write from 6 to 10. Then it’d be back to work at midnight. People would marvel at how I managed to keep it up. But now that I have a regular day gig, finding those hours is harder than ever. I acted like writing was a great triumph over adversity, but the truth is that it’s much more difficult to have a day job and write. 

Does your approach to writing change dependent on what piece of work you are crafting?


I don’t think so. It’s always about sitting down and getting the work done. I guess the biggest difference is the high is over too quick when I work on a shorter piece. 

In addition to the novellas and the novels, you’ve had a fair few short stories dotted around in anthologies. How different is the process for a short story versus a 100-odd page tale versus a work three times that in length?


Not really, it’s sit down and try to complete a scene. That’s the way I do it, one scene at a time. At least that’s the way I try. During this past year I’ve been hard at work adapting a screenplay from Hustle, and that is truly a different animal. It’s completely disrupted my writing discipline. 

Do you plot in detail or sketch, or is it all making shit up as you go along?


No plotting. For me, that’s the magic. That’s what I love. When I can sit down at the keyboard and truly say, “I wonder what’s going to happen to the characters today?”


Do you know the outcome before you settle down to write?

No, I think knowing forces you to stick with a certain path, and I need to have all paths open to me. I simple choice for a character can have a ripple effect on a plot, so why limit your choices? 

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?


I’m not sure you’d call ‘em gems. There’s a reason they’re stuck in the drawer.


What are the last five books you’ve read?


Hmmn … Let’s see. Right now I’m reading The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans’s biography about running Paramount Studios. Before that it was Season of the Witch by David Talbot—highly recommended. Dillo, by Max Sheridan, Smack, by Richard Lange, and She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper. 








Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I don’t know if I wish I could have written it, but Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy always makes me wonder how ANY mortal could have written such a book.


What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Wheelman. Small Crimes. I like the smaller crime flicks without a ton of flash. I liked Wheelman because of the experimental style of filming only in the car—very arty. And I loved how the protagonist in Small Crimes was so very unlikeable. That’s something that rings true with criminals, but you don’t see enough of in movies. 




TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Pitts household?

I pretty much roll with whatever the wife is watching, which means I get pulled down the rabbit-hole with everything from cooking competitions to whatever the series of the moment is. The ability to binge-watch a series has turned the TV experience into something much more akin to a reading a novel. A grand overarching story you can pick up and enjoy at your own speed. This year, I loved The Deuce, Ozark, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, American Gods, I’m Dying Up Here. There’s no end to them, really. 



---------------------------------------------------
Many thanks to Tom for his time.

American Static was on the blog the other day - here.

You can catch up with Tom Pitts at these haunts

Sunday, 14 January 2018

TOM PITTS - AMERICAN STATIC (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

After being beaten and left for dead, Steven finds himself stranded alongside the 101 in a small Northern California town. When a mysterious stranger named Quinn offers a hand in exchange for help reuniting with his daughter in San Francisco, Steven gets in the car and begins a journey from which there is no return. 

Quinn has an agenda all his own and he’s unleashing vengeance at each stop along his path. With a coked-up sadist ex-cop chasing Quinn, and two mismatched small town cops chasing the ex-cop, Steven is unaware of the violent tempest brewing. 

Corrupt cops and death-dealing gangsters manipulate the maze each of them must navigate to get to the one thing they’re all after: Teresa, the girl holding the secret that will rip open a decades-old scandal and scorch San Francisco’s City Hall. 

Steven finds Teresa homeless and strung out as their pursuers close in and bodies begin to pile high on the Bay Area’s back streets. Hand in hand Steven and Teresa lead the mad parade of desperate men to the edge of the void. 

American Static is a fast paced crime thriller with a mystery woven in. It’s played out against the backdrop of Northern California’s wine country, Oakland’s mean streets, and San Francisco’s peaks and alleys, written by one of its favorite sons, a man who knows the underbelly of the city like no one else. American Static’s prose has been compared to Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, and Don Winslow. 

Praise for AMERICAN STATIC: 

“American Static is a stunning achievement and nobody could have written it but Tom Pitts. Pitts ain’t just the real deal: he set the mold for what the real deal is, and the rest of us are just plastic copies.” —Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike and Cry Father 

My first time reading Tom Pitts despite having his earlier books on the pile for more than a year or two. After enjoying American Static, it's probably not going to be too long before I read one of the others.

The book starts with a bang - a young man Steven getting jumped and robbed -  and pretty much remains pedal to metal all the way through. There's a pretty detailed outline above, so I'll avoid boring anyone with a rehash.

Pace - relentless. 

Setting - San Francisco, one of my favourites.

Characters - where to begin. Likable, charismatic, amoral, driven, obsessed, naive, scared, bewildered, street-wise, honest, diligent, evil, funny, kind, corrupt, a huge capacity for violence, meticulous, cunning manipulative, powerful, controlling……

There’s a real depth to all the main players. Steven, young and foolish and in way over his head. Quinn, by one hand charming and engaging, then flick a switch - BOOM - a psychopath but a cool, clear-thinking, rational one at that. Kills for convenience or to enable a short term goal, I don't sense that he especially gets off on it. However - he's never less than interesting. He's on a mission and not much is going to stand in his way. 

Pitts has a skill in making you care about the outcome for a lot of the participants, on a personal level as well as seeing how the larger narrative plays out for at least three of those involved; Steven, Teresa and Carl - a retired cop, willingly dragged into the pursuit of Quinn .

Along the way we have some unlikely alliances fostered, with a blurring of the lines as to who can be trusted and what their motivations are - there's plenty of shades of grey and at times I was undecided over how I felt about certain individuals - Tremblay, an ex-cop with a checkered past and a none too "honest Joe" present.

Plot - complex and satisfying. Revenge is at the forefront of our tale. Being the house down, or die trying, or maybe both.

Overall - very, very good, one minor plot point kind of niggled me (and still does), and has me regarding this as slightly less than the perfect book. (Too trivial to mention, but still.)

4.5 from 5 
 
Tom Pitts has his website here.
His earlier books are Hustle, Piggyback and Knuckleball

Read in December, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 328
Source - Net Galley (cheers to publisher Down and Out Books)
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 11 January 2018

SOME HARRY BALLS AND LITTLE DICKS

Oh, not found what you were looking for? Punctuation never was my strong point.

A few more from the collection......

Harry Crews, a couple from John Ball, Eddie Little, Dick Francis and Dick Lochte....

A Feast of Snakes (1976)
Sometimes it's hard to find blurbs for older books. I read this years ago and loved it and kept hold of my copy.

There are a few rave reviews around the internet for this book. Here's a link to one of them at The New Southern Gentleman. (Spoiler alert.)

A small Georgia town, filled with a curious assortment of losers, anticipates the promise of bizarre new possibilities with the upcoming rattlesnake hunt.

Another Day in Paradise (1997)
One of only two novels Little penned before he died in 2003

In the tradition of Jim Carroll's Basketball Diaries, Eddie Little's debut novel traces the outlaw life of a young Irish American. A teenage speed freak and petty thief, Bobbie and his Puerto Rican girlfriend, Rosie, are taken under the wing of an all-round criminal opportunist named Mel, who is old enough to be Bobbie's father, and Mel's girlfriend, Syd. Bobbie's chance to get back on his feet begins as the inside man in a pharmaceutical company break-in. The ensuing crime spree takes the foursome across the Midwest and California of the early '70s--and deeper into the dark world of heroin addiction.



Sleeping Dog (1985)
Only ever read a short story by Lochte, but it was in his Dog series.

SLEEPING DOG is ONE OF THE MOST ACCLAIMED CRIME NOVELS EVER.
A New York Times Book of the Year, A Nero Wolfe Award Winner
An Edgar Award Finalist, A Shamus Award Finalist and an Anthony Award Finalist
Named by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century.

This beloved, comedy-noir thriller teams up Leo Bloodworth, a hard-drinking, middle-aged Los Angeles PI with hypertension and a low tolerance for precious teenagers, with Serendipity Dahlquist, a bright and strong-willed roller-blading 14-year-old searching for her lost dog. But things quickly escalate, plunging the oddest of odd couples into the dark underworld of sunny Southern California and pitting them against one of the biggest, and most brutal, organized crime families in Mexico.

"Outclasses, in many ways, the tales of Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and other renowned California mystery writers." Publishers Weekly

"Dick Lochte is a superb craftsman." Sue Grafton

“Sleeping Dog is funny and strong and a joy to read." Robert B. Parker


Five Pieces of Jade (1972)


Fourth book in Ball's Virgil Tibbs series. I loved In the Heat of the Night


"A nice tight murder puzzle." —Times Literary Supplement 

The body of an elderly Chinese importer of rare jade lies on the carpet of a quietly expensive house in Pasadena, California. In a rough semicircle around his head rest four pieces of jade; protruding from the heart is a fifth—the Ya-Chang ritual knife.

Who murdered the importer? Was it Yumeko, the beautiful half-black, half-Japanese girl who lived with him? Johnny Wu, a rich Chinese-American? Another customer? Or a political enemy from overseas?

Black homicide detective Virgil Tibbs finds himself in the middle of a deadly situation involving hard drugs, Communist Chinese agents, and the exotic settings of the jade trade as he coolly tracks down the murderer. 

"A taut, dramatic yarn." —Charlotte Observer 




Second Wind (1999)

I've not read too many Dick Francis books - they're usually centred around horse-racing though I'm not sure about this one.

The catastrophic power of a giant hurricane can raise coastal waves 30 feet high and blow through houses at amazing speeds. When meteorologist Perry Stuart goes on a hurricane-chasing ride in the Caribbean, he learns about more than wind speed.





The Eyes of Buddha (1976)

The fifth Virgil Tibbs.......


A partially decomposed body of a young woman is discovered in a park in Pasadena, California. The woman was strangled but not sexually assaulted. The police suspect she might be a missing heiress who disappeared over a year ago, but dental records prove them wrong. But who is she? And is there a link between the heiress and this corpse? The celebrated black detective Virgil Tibbs re-shapes the known facts regarding these two women and discovers astonishing connections. His quest leads him around the world to Katmandu where, beneath the searing "eyes of Buddha" at the famed Monkey Temple, he learns the truth in a striking denouement.




Wednesday, 10 January 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH MATT COYLE
















Blood Truth author Matt Coyle answers a few questions about his PI Rick Cahill and his writing.

Is the writing full time?

Not yet. I hope to jettison the day job sometime this year. I work for the licensing division of Rawlings Sporting Goods. I worked in the restaurant business for ten years. The gold business, the same and have been in sports licensing for the last fifteen years.

What's your writing schedule?

I work from home, which is nice as it lessens the transition time from day job to writing. I try to start writing by 5:30 pm and go until 8:30-9:00, although it varies. If my Saturday writers group is not in session, I'll write all day Saturday. I usually write a couple hours on Sunday morning.

Any characters inspired by family and friends?

I don't do this much, but, Turk Muldoon, a character in the first book, YESTERDAY'S ECHO, is a composite writ large of a best friend who passed away and a man I worked for for ten years in a restaurant. I occasionally use last names of friends, and once a full name, just for the fun of it. I like to see how long it takes to receive an email after they've bought the book.

When constructing a story, are you a plotter or a pantser?

How much time do you have? I have an idea for an inciting incident and the ending of a a book when I sit down to write a new one, not much else. The inciting incident generally stays the same, but the ending can change in the writing of the book. The most important thing in the story for me to find is the emotional connection my protagonist, private eye Rick Cahill, has with the case he takes on. Until I find that thread, I don't have a compelling story.

I let the story go where it wants in the first draft. I have a writing process that I call dropping anchors. The telling of the story will be going along okay and then a character, a sentence, a line of dialog, will come to me that might not make perfect sense, but I put it in the story anyway. I drop an anchor. This is my subconscious telling me there's more in the story than I can see right now. I don't worry if I don't know what the anchor means yet and just keep writing. Usually, somewhere along the way, I'll understand the meaning of the anchor and it will give added depth to the story, and occasionally take it in a direction that I'd never considered. Rarely, but sometimes, my unconscious is just lying to me and I have to go back and pull up anchors.

How long from start to finish did Blood Truth take?

BLOOD TRUTH took about a year to write from first ideas to submission to the publisher.
The writing process is never smooth for me and BT was no exception. It's a very personal story for Rick and myself. In some ways, it's a father/son story and I'd just lost my father a couple months before I began writing. Because of the topics explored, it's my most personally rewarding book. I think it's the best book I've written.

The editing process I put my publisher through is just about as messed up as my writing process. I'll get edits back about a month after I sent the book in. Usually nothing major. I address the edits, revise and send the book back in a few weeks. The publisher will send me back their copy edit a month or two later and I'll realize that there are some continuity issues and geographical mistake and do another edit far beyond correcting the simple copy edits they sent back. I usually send flowers to poor Emily at Oceanview. After BLOOD TRUTH, I sent chocolate.

Is there more Rick Cahill in the pipeline or something else?

I just sent in the fifth Rick book last week and am under contract for book six. I can't say I have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head for more Rick books, because I always have to go find them.

That being said, I can't imagine not writing him. There is still much I want to learn about Rick. However, to make a living as a writer, I'm probably going to have to write a new series for a different publisher. I still intend to write Rick books too for as long as people want to read them.


Thanks to Matt for his time. Catch him at his website here.

For my thoughts on each of the books - click on the title below.

Yesterday's Echo
Night Tremors
Dark Fissures
Blood Truth

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

2 BY HANNA JAMESON





















2 this week from Hanna Jameson - another author who I only recently discovered when browsing a bookstore over Christmas - her third novel Road Kill caught my eye.

BOOM - before I know it, I've got these two bad boys on the pile to enjoy.

She writes "like an angel on speed" apparently - so I'm thinking I'll enjoy these when I get to them.

From an internet search - she's currently working on her fourth novel, which might be due in 2019. Maybe I'll have caught up with her output thus far by then - somewhat unlikely, but I can but dream!

Catch her on Twitter@Hanna_Jameson

Something You Are (2012)



Nic Cuaruana is 27, and he has served a prison sentence for killing someone when he was 17. Since his release, he has worked as a hit man-cum-cleaner-upper of various crime problems. An arms dealer called Pat employs Nic to find his missing teenage daughter Emma, and almost before he knows it Nic has fallen big-time into gangland London. Quickly he discovers Emma has been murdered, but as he keeps chipping away as to what happened to her, Nic upsets more and more of the sort of people who really shouldn't be upset and, even more dangerously, he starts to fall for the nervy charms of Pat's self-mutilating wife, Clare. Something You Are is the first in a series of menacing urban crime novels from a young female writer of exceptional talent.






Girl Seven (2014)

The second turbo-charged novel from Dagger shortlisted Hanna Jameson

What is the price of revenge? The day her parents and sister were murdered, Seven did not cry. Instead, she tried to forget. She vowed that one day she would be free from the sight of their blood. But Seven could not forget. And now that she is part of London's criminal underworld, she knows men who can maim; men who can kill. But they all have a price. Will Seven betray her friends to avenge her family? A breath-taking thriller laced with fierce, sparse prose, Girl Seven stars a complex, conflicted heroine navigating a violent, amoral world.







Road Kill looks pretty amazing too!